McConnell Cancels Nearly $10M In Advertising For Blake Masters’ AZ Midterm Race

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  • Source: Wayne Dupree
  • 03/04/2023

An official with a super PAC affiliated with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced Tuesday that the organization had canceled nearly $10 million in television advertising in Arizona that it had set aside. Arizona is a competitive state where Republican challenger Blake Masters is trailing Sen. Mark Kelly (D) in the polls.

The expenditure reductions, which eliminate all of the super PAC’s remaining ad commitments in Arizona, are another setback for a GOP contender who has been badly outspent by his Democratic rival in terms of fundraising and airtime. The Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), a super PAC, also spent $8 million on Senate advertisements in Arizona last month, postponing its debut into the campaign until October and raising some concerns among Republicans in a state that has long been considered a priority target for their electoral strategy.

According to Steven Law, head of the SLF, “Republican outside forces” are “popping up” in the state “with millions in additional expenditure committed to knock down Mark Kelly in the last stretch.” As a result, the super PAC is canceling the remaining advertisements. The SLF claims that these outside organizations spent around $7.5 million as opposed to the $9.6 million they had budgeted.

The SLF can “pursue offensive possibilities” and “focus our efforts” to flip the equally divided Senate thanks to the expenditure from those other organisations, according to Law. He stated, “We remain positive that the issue climate is favorable to us, we have numerous avenues to get the majority, and we are deliberately and significantly investing to achieve that aim.

Kelly, a veteran astronaut with a sizable campaign war fund, has regularly outperformed Masters, a venture entrepreneur and first-time candidate. Recent polling on the Senate election in swing states like Georgia and Nevada indicates tighter contests.

However, the SLF has not yet abandoned New Hampshire, where GOP candidate Don Bolduc is behind incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in the polls. The SLF spent roughly $2 million in Nevada, $2.4 million in New Hampshire, and more over $3 million in Georgia this week.

Arizona, Georgia, and Nevada are “toss-ups,” according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, but the race in New Hampshire leans Democratic.

Over who should support Masters in the main election, McConnell and Peter Thiel, Masters’ former employer and political benefactor, have argued. In the primary, Thiel invested $15 million to support Masters, but he has since decided against doing so. According to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose the meeting, McConnell pushed Thiel to “come in, in a major manner, in Arizona” before the SLF discontinued some of its advertisements last month, and Law voiced doubt about the feasibility of Masters’s campaign.

Law at the time made reference to a “unexpected cost in Ohio,” where the SLF had just disclosed an increase in spending of $28 million, in a public statement. Another candidate Thiel supported in the primaries, GOP Senate nominee J.D. Vance, had trouble competing with his Democratic opponent on the radio.

According to Punchbowl News, McConnell joined Masters for a fundraiser in Washington this month and will do so again on Wednesday.

Republican strategist Jon Seaton, who focuses on Arizona elections, predicted that the campaign will become more competitive and rejected the notion that the SLF’s action was a “white flag” from the party.

Arizona is no longer the type of state that encourages blowouts, he claimed. However, several Republicans have become increasingly pessimistic about Masters’ chances in the absence of a sizable increase in expenditure.

Republicans in Arizona have reportedly always considered the Senate race to be more competitive than other statewide contests, according to a GOP campaign adviser. The consultant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a direct assessment, said that regardless of who won the GOP primary, “you still run up against the same dynamic — you run against Mark Kelly, a political unicorn in a lot of respects.” However, the unequal distribution of advertising dollars has worsened the situation in a campaign “that should be, under normal conditions, a competitive race,” he added.

Since Arizona’s August 2 primary, a pricey contest mostly between Masters, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, and Jim Lamon, a businessman who spent $14 million of his own money on the race, those connected with Masters’s campaign have claimed he has been working diligently to raise money.

One individual, speaking on the condition of anonymity to reveal non-public financing information, said this month that Masters spends at least several hours every day calling donors and will shortly announce his biggest fundraising quarter to date; he’s projected to raise at least several million dollars. Republicans understand that Masters would never be able to match Kelly’s fundraising efforts, who by July had amassed more than $50 million, including around $33 million from contributions of $200 or less.

More than $1.5 million in advertising in support of Masters have lately been purchased by Saving Arizona PAC, which supported Masters during the primary with cash from Thiel. Thiel, though, did not fund the extra reservations.

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